Why do you Need a Swimming Pool Expert?
An expert analysis of the various paths to resolving problems with swimming pool construction. The bottom line is that you will eventually need an expert... Don't waste your time and money on ineffective solutions.
For most homeowners the construction of a swimming pool is an exciting event and the realization of a family dream. In years of prosperity there are over 20,000 new swimming pools constructed in California alone; and there are many thousands more across the sunbelt of America. Most consumers have a good experience during the construction process even though most first-time buyers are not aware of how complex and frustrating the procedure can sometimes be. Building a swimming pool is a major project that begins with near total destruction of your yard and many weeks of re-construction until it is finished. There are always challenges that arise and often unforeseen decisions to be made before you can plunge into the water. Through the process you will watch your pool through at least 10 construction phases and have an intimate knowledge of how it was put together.
If you are fortunate you will have many years of family and personal enjoyment with a minimum of problems. Under most circumstances you will be able to call on your swimming pool contractor if you have any questions, concerns or problems. Sadly, in some cases after you make your final payment the contractor becomes unavailable and refuses to even respond to your questions. What are you options? Where do you turn for answers and how do you reach a resolution with your contractor?
There are four methods commonly employed in an attempt to get a builder to live up to his obligations:
• File a complaint with your local contractors licensing board.
• Notify the Better Business Bureau of your dissatisfaction.
• Hire an attorney and seek a solution in court.
• Hire an expert to assess the situation and provide a report.
Unfortunately the licensing board has very limited ability to force a builder to follow through on a project and to satisfy a customer complaint. The board might discipline the builder if he is found to have violated a term of the contract, but may not required corrections or reparations. There is little the board can do if there is no clear proof of violation or the obligation is not clearly defined in the contract. Also in most cases the field representatives are so overloaded that it can take months to make contact to even discuss the complaint. Sometimes the board will dispatch another pool builder to investigate and issue a report and never even visit the job before arriving at a decision. Many consumers have been disappointed in the results after filing a complaint with the board.
In most communities the Better Business Bureau has little clout and always lacks any authority. The builder can provide a written response to the complaint which will remain in the file until a bureau employee, with no actual construction expertise or knowledge, determines the merits of the case. If the builder is judged to have made an error his report is updated with a carefully worded comment that can be reported to the public. If the builder is a member of the bureau (Paid his yearly dues) he may have additional avenues to dispute the claim. If the bureau employee does not agree with the complaint then there is no report and no action taken. Contacting the Better Business Bureau for a report prior to entering into a contract is advisable, but the information may not be definitive.
Hiring an attorney may be an effective alternative, but can cost thousands of dollars for preliminary meetings, letters and filing fees before the builder is even aware of the threat of a lawsuit. Generally the builder notifies his attorney and the wheels start to slowly turn as claims and counter-claims issue forth. In the meantime the legal bills pile up with little or no resolution. Eventually, if there is no agreement, the attorney will advise you to hire an expert who can provide a report to bolster your case. If the dispute actually ends up in court each side will have spent as much as thirty-thousand dollars in legal fees which will, in most cases, be paid by whoever loses the case. At this point the original problem becomes financially insignificant.
The very best option is to hire an industry expert who can help you determine whether your claim is legitimate and how likely you are to reach a resolution. There are some very critical factors in choosing an expert that you need to consider. Be sure your expert is really qualified and has a wide range of experience in the swimming pool industry. Be wary of the pool builder who is making ends meet by hiring out his services as an expert. You are not well served by selecting a “hired gun” that will support your cause only because you are paying him. You need to armed with an honest appraisal of the facts so you can make an informed decision that will serve your cause. It is important that the expert provide you with a detailed written report with adequate descriptions and photos to prove the facts. If the expert reveals that your claim is either weak or unfounded then you can save a lot of heartache and money. If the expert supports your claim you have several options for moving ahead to reach a conclusion. Those options include:
• Asking the expert, as your representative, to contact the builder to discuss the situation and negotiate a resolution. The builder and expert probably “speak the same language” and have a mutual understanding of the construction process. It is likely they have a connection in the industry or mutual friends. The fee you pay the expert is a good investment and can often lead to an acceptable resolution.
• Submit a demand letter to the builder and include the experts report to legitimize your position. It should be obvious that you expect a resolution and that you are “armed” with evidence. Your demand should indicate your willingness to proceed to other levels if necessary while indicating a willingness to reach a reasonable settlement. Be sure to document every conversation and save all correspondence.
• It might be valuable to file your complaint with the contractors licensing board after you have received your expert report. Including a detailed report with verification of your claim by a recognized industry expert might influence the deputy to expedite your claim.
• Support your complaint to the Better Business Bureau with your industry expert report. The decision maker at the bureau will be influenced by a reasonable and informative report.
• If you eventually hire an attorney you will save many weeks of discovery, meetings and legal fees if you already have a detailed and conclusive expert report. In addition to the actual report provided by your expert, he can give insight and direction to your case by providing suggestions derived from experience in the industry. You will never want to be in front of a judge or jury without the support of an expert witness to support your claims.
If you are one of those people who like to read the last paragraph first to get the “bottom line” here it is: First, do some research and find the most qualified expert available. Second, hire the expert of your choice and provide him with as much information as possible and request that he visit the job site to meet with you and make observations. Third, request that your expert provide a written report with his findings and finally, based on the expert’s report seek a solution as outlined above.
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.